Street Harassment Film

When Sofie Peeters moved to Brussels for a film degree, she found herself confronted with a depressing problem almost every time she left her front door. Walking around her local neighbourhood, the mixed, working-class district of Anneessens, at any time of day she would be greeted with cat-calls, wolf-whistles and jeers of “slag” and “how much do you cost?”

Sick of wondering whether it was her fault for wearing particular clothes, she made her end of year film on the topic, armed with a hidden camera to record the street harassment.

For more, go here. Thanks, A!

11 thoughts on “Street Harassment Film

  1. Problem with this film is that it only portraits an immigrant district. Brussels is very racist so I bet part of the outrage this movie spanned is due to the fact it shows immigrant men molesting a white women. Politicians are considering to send undercover policewomen to this area. Any harassment will be fined with 250euro. As much as I believe street harassment should be fined and treated seriously by the police/law/ etc. I about the harm which this will make by perpetuating the idea that only ‘immigrant’s are ‘barbaric’ and ‘white proper males’ are not. Which obviously is not true since street harassment knows no boarder, class, race, gender, religion, etc. It’s a universal problem and that is how it should be treated.

  2. Viktory,

    Sure, also white men do this, and also to coloured women.
    The fact that she cannot change her colour and walks around in her neighbourhood, which happens to be a neighbourhood with many immigrant men walking outside, is in my opinion enough to justify the fact that it shows many immigrant men and a white woman.
    This is a fact of her life and that is what she is filming. She is not making a documentary about street harrassment.

    Having said that, it does have a lot to do with the men’s background. They come from a culture in which it is the norm to harass women in the street. These men go on doing this, without punishment, wherever they go. In Holland, where I live, it is the same thing. For this reason I avoid neighbourhoods in my city with many North-African immigrants. I think it is sad that these men succeed in governing women’s behaviour even in countries where their culture is not the norm and women should be free to do whatever they want. Recently I had to pass through such a neigbourhood and a man, his wife and their young son walked in front of me, got into an argument in which the man threatened the much smaller and timid woman and eventually spit in her face…all out in the open…in front of the child. None of the other men in the street cared, it’s just accepted behaviour and I was too afraid to do anything, being the only other woman outside in that area (and alone).
    The problem of sexism, harrassment, domestic abuse simply is not adressed when problems around immigration are discussed. Meanwhile, I am apparently not the only one adapting my behavior around these men…..

  3. These are very serious matters to be sure. Still, caution seems wise when making generalizations about immigrants that are not appropriately contextualized. Louise’s comment is of course context sensitive. I find the comments by both Viktory (#3) and Louise (#6) very important and telling.

    In case anyone is not familiar with the kind of work on immigration and crime by Robert J. Sampson (et al), for instance, I highly recommend (contentious though very plausible in my view):

    1) the very short 2008 article titled “Rethinking Crime and Immigration” (link is to a PDF)

    2) from 2009: Spatial Heterogeneity in the Effects of Immigration and Diversity on Neighborhood Homicide Rates (link is to full text webpage copy)

    3) from 2005: Social Anatomy of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Violence (link is to a PDF)

    4) Robert J. Sampson webpage

    – David Slutsky

  4. Ongoing elsewhere in the world too…

    Street sexual harassment: breaking the silence in Yemen

    “…The main goals of the campaign are to achieve a culture shift through giving space not only for women, but also for men to speak out about what is happening to them on the streets instead of keeping it behind closed doors. We want to mobilize people, decision makers, and police officers to form a new law to penalize harassers.

    “As part of the campaign we designed an electronic map where victims have a space to report harassment cases and indicate the location…”

    “The campaign has also included activism through art. Between 25th – 27th October 2011 we hosted an exhibition of local artists’ work on streets sexual harassment, and produced a video to engage public opinion. The campaign team also designed a digital platform for women and men to blog for the cause. Right now we are preparing to publish a book called “Happening down the streets”, featuring the stories of women who have experienced sexual harassment on the streets of Yemen. We’re also going to step up our offline activism so that we can reach those people who do not use facebook or the Internet…”

    And more, including discussion of dissenting voices and effective tactics.

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